If you haven’t heard about the U.S. being one of the most overworked countries in the world, then you haven’t been working hard enough. According to some estimates, 94 percent of professionals work 50 hours or more and almost half work 65 or more, and that’s not even including all that time spent checking emails at home or on the phone. Finding a work-life balance is incredibly difficult, but according to a new study, it may be especially difficult for women.
The findings illustrate how there are still inequalities between men and women in the workplace. Whereas men who asked to work from home so they could care for children seemed justified, women were seen less positively, the study found.
“These results demonstrate how cultural notions of parenting influence perceptions of people who request flexible work,” said study author Christin Munsch, assistant professor of sociology of Furman University in South Carolina, in a press release. By striving toward equality, women have encumbered a burden of not only being able to work full hours, but also being able to take care of their domestic obligations. “But we still regard breadwinning as men’s primary responsibility, and we feel grateful if men contribute to the realm of childcare or to other household tasks.”
The findings only add to a pile of hardships women face in the workplace. Simply getting mentored in preparation of taking on a leadership role is difficult, and even then, women aren’t as likely as men to be assigned high-profile, big-budget, or international assignments, according to a post on the Harvard Business Review’s blog. In an attempt to close a national wage gap of 77 cents for every dollar men make, Senate Democrats ultimately failed to get the required votes for the Paycheck Fairness Act this past April — they were six votes short, with not a single Republican voting in favor.
For the current study, which was presented on Monday at the American Sociological Association’s 109th annual meeting, Munsch showed 646 participants aged 18 to 65 transcripts of what they were told was an actual conversation between an employee and a human resources representative. When the employee asked for a flexible schedule, they either asked to come in early or to leave early three days a week, or to work from home two days a week. The participants were also asked whether they would be willing to grant the request, and how likeable, committed, dependable, and dedicated they believed the employee was.
When participants were told the employee was a man, 69.7 percent said they would “likely” or “very likely” grant his request. About a quarter of them found the men to be “extremely likable,” while 2.7 percent thought he was “not at all” or “not very” committed to his job. The results were much less positive for women. Only 56 percent of participants said they would let the woman take the time off or work from home. A miniscule three percent said the woman sounded “extremely likeable,” and 15.5 percent said she was “not at all” or “not very” committed to her job.
Munsch said the results compromise the effectiveness of flexible work options as a way to encourage equality between men and women, and to help families take care of kids and work. “In an arrangement where both partners contribute equally at home and in terms of paid labor — men, but not women would reap the workplace advantages,” she said, adding that instead of getting rid of flexible schedules altogether, employers should learn to become conscious of their biases.
Source: Munsch C. Flexible Work, Flexible Penalties: The Effect of Gender, Childcare, and Type of Request on the Flexibility Bias. At The American Sociological Association’s 109th Annual Meeting. 2014.